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The Feeling of New Running Shoes:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

One of my favorite passages from Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine" describes a young boy's experience getting new shoes after a long winter. Enjoy...

“Stop!” cried the old man.

Douglas pulled up and turned.

Mr. Sanderson leaned forward.

“How do they feel?” The boy looked down at his feet deep in the rivers, in the fields of wheat, in the wind that already was rushing him out of the town. He looked up at the old man, his eyes burning, his mouth moving, but no sound came out.

“Antelopes?” said the old man, looking from the boy’s face to his shoes. “Gazelles?”

The boy thought about it, hesitated, and nodded a quick nod. Almost immediately he vanished. He just spun about with a whisper and went off. The door stood empty. The sound of the tennis shoes faded in the jungle heat.

Mr. Sanderson stood in the sun-blazed door, listening. From a long time ago, when he dreamed as a boy, he remembered the sound. Beautiful creatures leaping under the sky, gone through brush, under trees, away, and only the soft echo of their running left behind.

“Antelopes,” said Mr. Sanderson. “Gazelles.”

He bent to pick up the boy’s abandoned winter shoes, heavy with forgotten rains and long-melted snows. Moving out of the blazing sun, walking softly, lightly, slowly, he headed back toward civilization . . .
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CTICKET 4/12/2014 10:20AM

    CHRISTINATODAY: No new shoes for me yet :-(
I was just thinking it was spring and how flat my old shoes feel, how without their bounce they no longer live up to the promise of the season, and it reminded me of that passage. Earlier in the chapter, the boy was trying to find the words to convince his father that his winter shoes were no longer adequate. The kid sees the shoes in the store window and tries to convince his father to buy him a pair:

“Dad!” He blurted it out. “Back there in that window, those Cream-Sponge ParaLitefoot Shoes . . .”

His father didn’t even turn. “Suppose you tell me why you need a new pair of sneakers. Can you do that?”

“Well . . .”

It was because they felt the way it feels every summer when you take off your shoes for the first time and run in the grass. They felt like it feels sticking your feet out of the hot covers in wintertime to let the cold wind from the open window blow on them suddenly and you let them stay out a long time until you pull them back in under the
covers again to feel them, like packed snow. The tennis shoes felt like it always feels the first time every year wading in the slow waters of the creek and seeing your feet below, half an inch further downstream, with refraction, than the real part of you above water.

“Dad,” said Douglas, “it’s hard to explain.”

Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmallows and coiled springs in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness. Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people that made the
shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer.

Douglas tried to get all this in words. “Yes,” said Father, “but what’s wrong with last year’s sneakers? Why can’t you dig them out of the closet?”

Well, he felt sorry for boys who lived in California where they wore tennis shoes all year and never knew what it was to get winter off your feet, peel off the iron leather shoes all full of snow and rain and run barefoot for a day and then lace on the first new tennis shoes of the season, which was better than barefoot. The magic was always in the new pair of shoes. The magic might die by the first of September, but now in late June there was still plenty of magic, and shoes like these could jump you over trees and rivers and houses. And if you wanted, they could jump you over fences and sidewalks and dogs.

“Don’t you see?” said Douglas. “I just can’t use last year’s pair.”

For last year’s pair were dead inside. They had been fine when he started them out, last year. But by the end of summer, every year, you always found out, you always knew, you couldn’t really jump over rivers and trees and houses in them, and they were dead. But this was a new year, and he felt that this time, with this new pair of shoes, he
could do anything, anything at all.

Comment edited on: 4/12/2014 10:22:06 AM

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LARABY34 4/12/2014 9:06AM

    but then someone steps on them so they are not perfectly white anymore.

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2014TODAY 4/12/2014 6:16AM

    so, did YOU get new shoes?

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SUSANBEAMON 4/12/2014 1:43AM

  been a while since i've read any Bradbury. he did manage to make the feelings real enough.

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